National FFA Officer Candidate
Add in the butter, scramble the eggs, pour in the sugar, don’t forget to add the cricket flour, and of course the — wait…crickets? In BROWNIES?
Whether the idea of crickets in your brownies excites you or sends tingles down your spine, it’s a real food. Crickets likely aren’t the first thing we think of when we talk about agriculture, but emerging urban ag practices such as cricket farming are expanding the meaning of agriculture as we know it. Since the idea of cricket farming in the United States became popularized in 2015, this niche market has gradually started to emerge in our state. In addition to the 3 Cricketeers, the only cricket farm in Minnesota, the University of Minnesota Entomology Department has explored the potential benefits of looking past our initial response to eating bugs. The emerging practice of cricket farming is just one humbling reminder of the variety that we offer as producers and the choices we have as consumers.
Agriculture is everywhere. That’s why so many agriculture groups are focusing on communication. It’s why we promote agricultural education, and it’s why a basic understanding of agricultural literacy is important. Formally, agriculture is defined as, “the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products.” That’s a broad statement. Our definition of agriculture depends on our experiences. Coming from Fillmore County, we specialize in some of the many forms of agriculture. As a state, Minnesota has crops and livestock in addition to natural resources like timber, the iron range belt, Fortune 500 companies, and more. The main goal of the agricultural industry is to use available resources to feed the world. Completing this goal takes on many forms through both mainstream practices and niche markets like raising crickets.
There are a few factors that catch people’s attention when it comes to cricket-based foods. Cricket is lightweight, which is the reason Native Americans would carry it during hunting trips and some individuals continue to do the same today. Cricket-based foods can serve as a flour alternative for gluten-free diets, and the products contain antioxidants and are rich in protein, which is essential for everyone — especially athletes and bodybuilders.
Around the world, using insects as a protein source is a historically common practice. This is particularly true for countries in Central America, Southern America, and China. Although Native Americans have also used insects as a food source, the idea didn’t popularize in the United States until recently. A leading farm in this niche market is 3 Cricketeers. According to the farm’s website 3cricketeers.com, 3 Cricketeers is “one of the first of its kind in the United States.” Since opening in 2017, 3 Cricketeers is the only farm for consumable crickets in
Currently, 3 Cricketeers is located in St. Louis Park in the Twin Cities. According to Elaine Dorn, the farm’s intern for communication and marketing, the farm has hopes of expanding. Dorn’s upcoming tasks include building upon their communications platforms to reach their three most common audiences: athletes, outdoor enthusiasts, and people seeking alternative healthy diets. The farm sells roasted cricket chips, cricket seasonings, and cricket powder (similar to flour). Their website and Instagram account (@3cricketeers) contain cricket recipes for smoothies, cookies, brownies, banana bread, and more.
“Desserts are already good, so would adding crickets to it ruin the flavor?” This is a question Sujaya Rao, Department Head of Entomology at the University of Minnesota, has researched. During a test booth at the 2018 Minnesota State Fair called Jiminy Crickets: What’s In These Chips? respondents sampled chips and provided positive feedback, oftentimes not tasting the difference. Between the low space and resources required to raise a high-protein product, Rao considers cricket farming a potential market for food that is both sustainable and healthy — both of which are food traits that many people desire.
As agriculture grows, so do consumer options. It is a privilege to be able to choose from a variety of foods that accommodate our diet, financial, religious, and personal needs. While I would never pass up on a juicy hamburger or fresh eggs produced from our farm’s beef herd and our neighbor’s chickens, I wouldn’t knock the idea of trying a cricket snack at least once, especially if it means eating a brownie! Our population is growing, and so is the demand for food production. Cultivating crickets is just one of many solutions. Each food producer has a role in meeting our world’s food supply needs, whether they raise cows, corn, or crickets.
In the upcoming weeks, I will be sharing what I have learned and continue to learn from my experiences and conversations across the state. Topics will range from local stories to understanding the relevance of policies and current events in agriculture. Literacy is listening. To share any questions, story ideas, or comments on published or potential articles, please feel welcome to email me firstname.lastname@example.org.